Career Bests: Victories, Dreams Fulfilled for Marketa, Yulia, Vetle, Dmytro and…
Every athlete starts every season with goals; many reach those goals whether it’s faster skiing, a top 10 or a BMW IBU World Cup victory. No matter the goal, a career best always brings out the biggest smiles. It confirms, “I have improved. I am getting better; the hard work is paying off.”
Last season, five women (Yulia Dzhima, Marketa Davidova, Lisa Vittozzi, Marte Olsbu Røiseland and Franziska Preuss) and four men (Alexander Loginov, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen, Dmytro Pidruchnyi and Quentin Fillon Maillet) picked up their first-ever BMW IBU World Cup win, with eight others standing on the podium for the first time.
Yulia Dzhima: Season-opening Win
The first, first-time winner of the year was Yulia Dzhima in the season-opening Pokljuka 15K individual. The Ukrainian had multiple WC individual and relay podiums, an Olympic Relay Gold medal and two IBU WCH Relay medals but never an individual win. That first victory came when the 28-year-old cleaned the fourth stage for a 20-for-20 day, while Hojnisz and Davidova, although skiing faster both missed one shot in the last standing stage. Third on three occasions in the 2017-18 season, Dzhima anticipated her win. “I actually hoped to be in first place last year so that is why I decided to start this year with a victory!
Davidova’s “Dream” Win
Third behind Dzhima at Pokljuka, Marketa Davidova had a string of career bests, culminating in her first-ever World Cup win in the Antholz sprint, followed by a second place in the mass start the same weekend. The just-turned 22-year-old, known for her ski talent was fast in Antholz’s thin air, but not as fast as second place Kaisa Mäkäräinen and third place Marte Olsbu Røiseland. Yet the 2018 IBU Junior Pursuit World Champion shot clean for the first time in her World Cup career while her veteran rivals had a single penalty, giving the new Czech star a razor-thin 1.5-second win. Bib number 5 Davidova watched the entire competition before the win was confirmed. She admitted that watching “was really long. My last loop was not so fast so I was afraid that Laura (Dahlmeier) would be faster.” Davidova thought it was all a dream. “I am really happy for the (good) shooting. I do not know if this is true. I will see when I wake up tomorrow.” Davidova ended her season in 21st place in the World Cup Total Score, up from 91st the year before.
Preuss: Hometown Win
First wins are always special, but getting it at home makes it even more special; just ask Franziska Preuss. The Ruhpolding resident closed target-after-target in the Ruhpolding mass start until all 20 were white. She took a 4-second lead heading into the last loop. Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold closed the gap, challenging in the final 100 meters; Preuss prevailed for win number 1 with self-talk and pure grit. “It was really a hard battle; yesterday with Tiril, now Ingrid…On the last downhill, I realized that no, I can do it today. I just gave everything on the finish line. I am very proud of myself that I did it. It is such a great feeling to get this first victory in Ruhpolding, my home stadium… an amazing day.”
North American Success for Christiansen
Given his choice, Vetle Sjaastad Christiansen just might be happy if every BMW IBU World Cup was held in North America; mainly because the Norwegian had the three best results of his career at Soldier Hollow and Canmore. The biggest day of Christiansen’s career came when he won the Soldier Hollow sprint. On a warm windy day at the 2002 Olympic Biathlon venue, the 2018 IBU Cup Total Score winner shot clean to eke out a 1.3 second win over Simon Desthieux. Christiansen, the 2013 IBU Rookie of the Year was truly appreciative. “It is unbelievable for me; there are a lot of emotions. I have been doing biathlon since I was six years, so you could say I have been waiting for this for 20 years. There have been a lot of down times (with illness and injury) over the years, but here in first place, I forgot all of them.”
During the competition, “I shot clean in standing and saw Johannes on the penalty loop, I thought maybe, today is the day.” It was; the 27-year-old went on the win two IBU WCH Gold medals in the mixed relay and relay, finishing the season with another career best, 13th place in the World Cup Total Score.
Pidruchnyi’s Stunning Win
Dmytro Pidruchnyi’s career best (and career-first podium) taking the IBU WCH Pursuit Gold medal was unquestionably the most stunning moment in Östersund. Before his 4th in the previous day’s sprint, his career best was 5th place in the 2016 Ruhpolding mass start. In the 2018-19 season, he only cracked the top 10 once. Yet on March 10, the Ukrainian, after two first-prone penalties, hit the next 15 targets, leaving the last standing stage 15 seconds ahead of Johannes Thingnes Boe. Pidruchnyi explained, “The last loop was really crazy…I was trying to battle as hard as I could, because Johannes was behind me and he is really strong.”
Struggling to comprehend the magnitude of his first-ever win, Pidruchnyi added, “For the moment I cannot believe that I won a medal, a Gold medal. I do not believe that I could steal a medal from such a person as Johannes.”
Iliev, Egan, and More
Beyond these first-time victors, there were plenty of others with career bests over the course of the season. 32-year-old Vladimir Iliev’s career best came wrapped in an IBU 20K individual Silver medal. Two-time IBU Junior World Champion Felix Leitner ended his season with a just-off-the-podium 4th place in the Oslo pursuit. The USA’s Clare Egan who considered leaving the sport before last season rang up career bests all season, culminating with her first podium, third in the Oslo mass start. Swedish veteran Mona Brorsson in her sixth full WC season had a brilliant 2019 IBU WCH, with her first-ever top 10’s including identical career best 5th places in the sprint and pursuit. 21-year-old Kamila Zuk, two-time IBU Junior Champion in 2018 was 6th in the Soldier Hollow sprint and 8th in the pursuit, her first-ever WC top 10’s. The list goes on with 38 women and 35 men finishing with career bests inside the top 30 last season. With those goals achieved, new challenges and more bests await…